J.W. Cole goes nationwide with FAA deal

Acquisition creates firm with 400 independent-contractor reps, dual headquarters

Nov 19, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

By Dan Jamieson

Tampa, Fla.-based broker-dealer J.W. Cole Financial Inc. is acquiring Financial Advisers of America LLC, based in Carlsbad, Calif., the firms said today.

J.W. Cole, which has about 300 independent-contractor representatives, will add another 100 from FAA.

Terms have not been disclosed, but no outside investors played a role, said John Carlson, founding principal at J.W. Cole.

The acquisition is still awaiting approval by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc.

The combined firms will operate under the J.W. Cole name, with dual headquarters.

Principals at the firms said the combination will increase scale and create a national footprint while maintaining a more family-style firm than the bigger national B-Ds.

About two-thirds of the brokers affiliated with J.W. Cole are east of the Mississippi, and about 90% of FAA's reps are west of that divide.

Key to the deal was the good cultural fit, said FAA chief executive Jodi Johnston.

“As we started to get to know each other, through networking and through our [joint clearing firm] National Financial [Services LLC], we heard a lot about each other, compared notes, became friends and found [we were] so similar to each other” by attracting advisers who want a smaller, independent firm, Ms. Johnston said in an interview.

“Many are tired of the really big corporate B-Ds,” she said.

Smaller firms with a national reach is “what's missing in the industry,” Mr. Carlson said, adding: “The only press you get about small firms is [when they are] going out of business.”

“Private-equity and venture capital [ownership] just doesn't cut it,” Mr. Carlson said.

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